Fighting homelessness

Recognizing the right to housing

In 1976, Canada ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognizes that Covenant nations must ensure that their citizens have adequate housing. However, no federal legislation has been implemented in Canada to recognize this right; consequently, the rights recognized under the International Covenant have been unapplied in our country for more than forty years.

The NDP is asking the government to include the right to housing in Canada’s human rights legislation. The purpose of Bill C-264, sponsored by Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, is to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights to recognize that all individuals have the right to enjoy proper housing at a reasonable cost and free of unreasonable barriers.

Homelessness in Canada : a serious concern

In order for all Canadians to have a right and access to housing adapted to their needs, we must first take real action to fight homelessness.

Although homelessness in Canada is a serious concern, there are many reasons to believe that this situation can be improved and that homelessness could be totally eradicated.

In 2016, it was estimated that more than 235,000 people were without a home during a year. In the past, homeless individuals tended to be older, single men. Today, a growing number of the homeless are women, families and youth. Indigenous households living on or off reserve and immigrants are also more likely to experience homelessness. In fact, 28% to 34% of shelter users are indigenous individuals (even though they represent only 4.3 % of the general population).

Investments in Fighting Homelessness Pay Off

The gradual withdrawal of federal investment in social housing is one of the primary causes of this crisis situation.

Eradicating homelessness should be viewed as an investment rather than an expenditure for the government. Those affected by homelessness are more likely than the average person to end up in hospitals and correctional facilities. The costs associated with keeping a person in a hospital or a prison are far greater than the cost of delivering programs to reduce homelessness and the cost of providing social housing for the homeless.

The federal government’s response was to implement the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS), a community‑based program that provided funding for various initiatives to combat homelessness.

However, with the HPS for 2014–2019, the previous Conservative government decided to make a major shift and focus on an intervention approach called “Housing First” without increasing the program’s budget. This approach is specifically designed to meet the needs of people who are chronically homeless, without taking into account the other common forms of homelessness. Allocating 40% to 65% of resources to this new approach has reduced the ability of communities to respond to various needs (particularly the prevention of homelessness by organizations focussed on that type of intervention) and undermined the autonomy of communities to identify priorities for meeting their particular needs.


Useful links:

// Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH)

// Canadian Housing & renewal association (CHRA)

// The Homeless Hub

// Réseau Québécois des OSBL d’Habitation (RQOH)